Being a conservative lady, my mother had to face quite a few shocking situations when she gave me, her seventh child, in marriage to an Air Force officer. Apart from the differences rising from generation gap, her preconceived notions about military life made it a veritable culture shock for her whenever she visited us. It took her a long time to get reconciled to my husband’s habit of bed coffee and bath in the evening. She had even tactfully asked me once whether my husband came home directly and relished his dinner or whether he had the habit of visiting the bar on the way! I told her not to worry as his regimen of playing a game of basketball every evening gave him quite a healthy appetite.
For her, the kitchen was sacrosanct with entry to no one except the housewife and if it were a little bigger, to the immediate family. But in our stable like quarters in MAR hostel in New Delhi, which were actually old war time barracks, the kitchen was a free for all including the sweeper Jamadarni and the neighborhood children. This would result in an extreme feeling of desecration to her person and she would all the time be on alert, more so as the kitchen was directly accessible from outside with only the mesh door with the spring in between. One day she was in a panic as a strange child of two had come pushing the mesh door confidently and passing through the kitchen had disappeared into the house. After investigating I told her that it was my brother-in-law’s son. The smart little guy had chosen the short cut through the kitchen while his parents had chosen the main entrance!
But her worst was yet to come. Once she came to visit us at Poona, where we were staying in the temporary family accommodation. These were right opposite CME mess. Being a training institution mess, she would see all smart officers walking around. She used to tell me that the place was just like paradise with only eternally-30 year olds and no sign of any sick or old people. Our quarters were just converted- bachelor- quarters, with the rear open verandah enclosed to provide a dining room for the families, the rest being the same. One evening, our friends–bachelors and grass widowers had gathered in the drawing room for a ‘gupshup’. My mother was sitting in the dining room, with the interconnecting door shut, imagining all sorts of bacchanalian orgies going on in the drawing room. Imagine her shock when one of the bachelors came charging into the dining room brandishing a chappal, like the demon Mahishasura with the chopper in his hand!!! It so happened that this friend of ours had taken an exception to my husband’s old chappal. Threatening to get rid of it, he had charged into the dining room, forgetting that unlike their open verandahs, ours was enclosed and it was a full fledged dining room. How could he ever imagine that there would be a nervous, shrinking old lady sitting there totally unable to comprehend his antics?
My mother-in-law had her share of shocks too. One day, in Shillong, our children were having dinner in the dining room. The said dining room had been separated from the drawing room with 3-4 long printed curtains. I was busy making chapathis in the kitchen. My mother in-law came and whispered to me that there was someone like a ‘Yama doot’ (a messenger of death). On coming out, I realized that it was only our extremely mild mannered friend, Major N. He was a dark complexioned man sporting a fierce looking handle bar moustache befitting his police branch. Having entered the house silently, he wanted to surprise the children .So he had parted the curtains just enough to reveal his face thus scaring my mom-in-law instead!